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A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell - Excerpt


In this excerpt from Chapter One of A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell, Lily Ivory's day does not start off too well!  A Toxic Trousseau, the 8th Witchcraft Mystery, will be published on July 5th by NAL Obsidian.



A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell - Excerpt




Chapter One

Small business owners have their morning routines. Some people switch on the lights, brew a cup of coffee, and read the paper before engaging with the day. Some count out the money in the register and tidy up the merchandise. Some sweep and hose down the front walk.
       Each morning before opening my vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora’s Closet, I sprinkle salt water widdershins, smudge sage deosil, and light a white candle while chanting a spell of protection.
       Such spells can be powerful, and for a small business owner like me they serve an important purpose: to help customers maintain their composure in the face of fashion frustrations, keep evil intentions at bay, and discourage those with sticky fingers from rummaging through the feather boas, chiffon prom dresses, and silk evening gowns and then trying to shove said items into pockets or backpacks or under shirts.
       But protection spells aren’t much good against litigation.
       “Lily Ivory?” asked the petite, somber young woman who entered Aunt Cora’s Closet, a neon yellow motorcycle helmet under one arm. She had dark hair and eyes, and I imagined she would have been pretty had she smiled. But her expression was dour.
       “Yes?” I asked, looking up from a list of receipts.
       She held out a manila envelope. “You have been served.”
       “Served?”
       “You are hereby notified of a lawsuit against you, Aunt Cora’s Closet, and one errant pig, name unknown. By the by, not that it’s any of my business, but is it even legal to own livestock in the city?”
       I cast a glare in the direction of said pig, my witch’s familiar, Oscar. At least, I tried to, but he’d disappeared. Only moments earlier Oscar had been snoozing on his hand-embroidered purple silk pillow, resting up for a busy day of trying to poke his snout under the dressing room curtains while customers tried on vintage cocktail dresses, fringed leather jackets, and Jackie O pillbox hats. Now only the slight rustling of a rack of 1980s spangled prom dresses revealed his location.
       “My pig’s being served with legal papers?”
       “Not so much your pig, as you. Your property, your worry. At least, that’s how it works with dogs, so I assume . . .” The woman trailed off with an officious shrug as she headed for the front door with long strides, already pulling on her helmet. “But that isn’t any of my business; I just deliver the bad news. Have a nice day.”
       “Wait—”
       She didn’t pause. I followed her outside, where someone was revving the engine of a large black motorcycle. The woman jumped on the back and they zoomed off.
       “Duuude,” said Conrad, the homeless young man who slept in nearby Golden Gate Park and spent the better part of his days “guarding” the curb outside of my store. In San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, many young homeless people lived this way, panhandling and scrounging and generally referring to themselves as “gutter punks.” Over the past year, Conrad—or as he liked to call himself, “The Con”—had become a friend and the unofficial guardian of Aunt Cora’s Closet. “You get served?”
       “Apparently so,” I said, opening the envelope to find some scary-looking legal-sized documents filled with legalese, such as “party of the first part.”
       My heart sank as I put two and two together. My friend Bronwyn, who rents space in my store for her herbal stand, had filled me in on an incident that took place a couple of weeks ago while I was out scouting garage sales for resaleable treasure. It seems a woman came into the shop and started flicking through the merchandise, pronouncing it “unsuitable—too much of that dreadful ready-to-wear.” Bronwyn had explained to her that Aunt Cora’s Closet doesn’t deal in high-end vintage; our merchandise consists mostly of wearable clothes, with the occasional designer collectibles. The woman then turned to my employee Maya and started grilling her about the ins and outs of the store, making none-too-subtle inquiries about where we obtained our specialty stock.
       Oscar started getting in the customer’s way, making a pest of himself and keeping her away from the clothes. Bronwyn tried to call him off, but he kept at it, almost as though he was trying to herd her toward the exit. Finally the woman picked a parasol off a nearby shelf and started whacking Oscar, and there was a scuffle.
       The woman had screamed and flailed, lost her balance, and fell back into a rack of colorful swing dresses. Maya and Bronwyn hastily extricated her, made sure she was all right, and offered profuse apologies. The woman had seemed fine at the time, they both said, and she stomped out of the store in high dudgeon.
       But if I was reading the legal papers correctly, the woman—named Autumn Jennings—was now claiming she had been “head-butted” by an “unrestrained pig,” had been injured in the “attack,” and was demanding compensation.
       It was a mystery. Oscar had never herded—much less head-butted—anyone in Aunt Cora’s Closet before. He wasn’t the violent type. In fact, apart from a few occasions when he intervened to save my life, Oscar was more the “let’s eat grilled cheese and take a nap” type.
       He was also my witch’s familiar, albeit an unusual one. Oscar was a shape-shifter who assumed the form of a miniature Vietnamese potbellied pig when around cowans—regular, nonmagical humans. Around me, his natural form was sort of a cross between a goblin and a gargoyle. A gobgoyle, for lack of a better word. His was a lineage about which I didn’t want to think too hard.
       “Bad vibes, Dude,” Conrad said with a sage nod. “Been there. Dude, I hate being served.”
       “You’ve been served?” I asked. Conrad was in his early twenties and lived such a vagabond existence it was hard to imagine why anyone would bother to sue him. I could easily imagine his being picked up by police in a sweep of the local homeless population, but how would a process server even know where to find Conrad to serve him papers?
       He nodded. “Couple times. But at least yours arrived on a Ducati. That’s a nice bike.”
       “What did you—” My question was cut off by the approach of none other than Aidan Rhodes, witchy godfather to San Francisco’s magical community. His golden hair gleamed in the sun, a beautifully tailored sports jacket hugged his tall frame, and a leather satchel was tucked under one strong arm. As he strolled down Haight Street with his signature graceful glide, strangers stopped to stare. Aidan’s aura glittered so brilliantly that even nonsensitive people noticed, though they didn’t realize what they were reacting to.
       This is all I need.
       I girded my witchy loins.
       Things between Aidan and me were . . . complicated. Not long ago I’d stolen something from Aidan, and I still owed him. And when it comes to debts, we witches are a little like elephants, bookies, and the Internet: We never forget. Even worse, Aidan feared San Francisco was shaping up to be ground zero in some sort of big magical showdown, and he wanted me to stand with him for the forces of good. Or, at the very least, for the good of Aidan Rhodes. It was hard to say exactly what was going on—and exactly what role I was willing to play in it—since the threat was frustratingly nonspecific, and Aidan played his cards infuriatingly close to his chest.
       “Good morning,” Aidan said as he joined us. “Conrad, it’s been too long. How have you been?”
       Despite their vastly different circumstances and lifestyles, Aidan treated Conrad with the respect due a peer. His decency sort of ticked me off. My life would be simpler if I could dismiss Aidan as an arrogant, power-hungry witch beyond redemption. His kindness toward my friend was difficult to reconcile with that image.
       The two men exchanged pleasantries, chatting about the beauty of Golden Gate Park when bathed in morning dew and sunshine, and whether the Giants had a shot at the pennant this year. And then Aidan turned his astonishing, periwinkle blue gaze on me, sweeping me from head to foot.
       Suddenly self-conscious, I smoothed the full skirt of my sundress.
       “And Lily . . . Stunning as always. I do like that color on you. It’s as joyful as the first rays of dawn.”
       “Thank you,” I said, blushing and avoiding his eyes. The dress was an orangey gold cotton with a pink embroidered neckline and hem, circa 1962, and I had chosen it this morning precisely because it reminded me of a sunrise. “Aren’t you just the sweet talker.”
       “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” my mama used to tell me. Did this mean I was the fly and Aidan the fly catcher?
       “Is everything all right?” Aidan asked. “Am I sensing trouble? Beyond the norm, I mean.”
       “Dude, Lily just got served,” Conrad said.
       “Served? I fear we aren’t speaking of breakfast.”
       “A lawsuit,” I clarified.
       “Ah. What a shame. Whatever happened?”
       “Oscar head-butted a customer.”
       “That’s . . . unusual.” Aidan had given me Oscar and knew him well. “Was this person badly injured?”
       “I wasn’t there when it happened, but according to Bronwyn and Maya the customer seemed fine. But now she’s claiming she sustained ‘serious and debilitating neck and back injuries that hinder her in the completion of her work and significantly reduce her quality of life,’” I said, quoting from the document I still clutched tightly in my hand.
       “That sounds most distressing. Might I offer my services in finding a resolution?”
       “No. No, thank you.” The only thing worse than being slapped with a slip-and-fall lawsuit—the boogeyman of every small business owner—was being even more beholden to Aidan Rhodes than I already was. Besides . . . I wasn’t sure what he meant by “finding a resolution.” Aidan was one powerful witch. If he got involved, Autumn Jennings might very well wind up walking around looking like a frog.
       “You’re sure?” Aidan asked. “These personal injury lawsuits can get nasty—and expensive, even if you win. As much as I hate to say it, you may have some liability here. Is it even legal to have a pig in the city limits?”
       “Don’t worry about it; I’ve got it handled,” I said, not wishing to discuss the matter any further with him. “Was there some reason in particular you stopped by?”
       Aidan grinned, sending sparkling rays of light dancing in the morning breeze. He really was the most astounding man.
       “I was hoping we might have a moment to talk,” he said. “About business.”
       My stomach clenched. Time to face the music. I did owe him, after all. “Of course, come on in.”
       The door to Aunt Cora’s Closet tinkled as we went inside, and Bronwyn fluttered out from the back room, cradling Oscar to her ample chest. She was dressed in billows of purple gauze, and a garland of wildflowers crowned her frizzy brown hair. Bronwyn was a fifty-something Wiccan, and one of the first—and very best—friends I had made upon my arrival in the City by the Bay not so very long ago.
       “Hello, Aidan! So wonderful to see you again!” she gushed.
       “Bronwyn, you light up this shop like fireworks on the Fourth of July.”
       “Oh, you do go on.” She waved her hand but gave him a flirtatious smile. “But, Lily! Our little Oscaroo is very upset, poor thing! Maybe it has something to do with the woman with the motorcycle helmet who was just here—what was that about?”
       “She was serving Lily with legal papers,” said Aidan.
       “Legal papers?” Bronwyn asked as Oscar hid his snout under her arm. “For what?”
       “Remember when Oscar”—I cast about for the right word—“harassed a woman a couple of weeks ago?”
       Oscar snorted.
       “Of course, naughty little tiny piggy pig pig,” Bronwyn said in a crooning baby voice. “But I have to say, she really was bothering all of us. But . . . she’s suing you? Seriously?”
       I nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
       “Well, now, that’s just bad karma,” Bronwyn said with a frown.
       “You said she wasn’t hurt, though, right?”
       “She was fine!” Bronwyn insisted. “She fell into the rack of swing dresses. You know how poofy those dresses are—there’s enough crinolines in the skirts to cushion an NFL linebacker, and she’s, what, a hundred pounds soaking wet? I saw her just the other day, when I brought her some of my special caramel-cherry-spice maté tea and homemade corn-cherry scones, and she seemed fine. As a matter of fact, when I arrived she was up on a ladder, and she certainly didn’t seem to have any back or neck injuries. She was a little under the weather, but it was a cold or the flu.”
       “When was this?”
       “Day before yesterday, I think . . . I thought I should make the effort, since you weren’t even here when it happened. I just wanted to tell her I was sorry.”
       “How did you know where to find her?”
       “She left her business card. . . .” Bronwyn trailed off as she peeked behind her herbal counter. “I have it around here somewhere. Turns out, she’s a rival vintage clothing store owner, which explains why she was so interested. Her place is called Vintage Visions Glad Rags, over off Buchanan.”
       “Really. That is interesting. What’s it like?”
       “Very nice inventory, but if you ask me not nearly as warm and inviting as Aunt Cora’s Closet. She had some ball gowns that I’m sure were from the nineteenth century. But those are more museum pieces than anything someone would actually wear. The whole place was too snooty for my taste, by half. And expensive! Too rich for my blood.”
       “Did anything happen while you were there? Did she say anything in particular?”
       Bronwyn frowned in thought, then shook her head. “Nothing at all. She didn’t seem particularly bowled over by my gift basket, but she accepted it. But like I say, she told me she was a little under the weather, so maybe that accounts for her mood. She did have a very sweet dog, and I always say a pet lover is never irredeemable.”
       “Okay, thanks,” I said, blowing out a breath. “If you think of anything else, please let me know. Aidan and I are going to talk in the back for a moment.”
       “I’ll keep an eye on things,” Bronwyn said, lugging Oscar over to her herbal stand for a treat. Oscar was a miniature pig, but he was still a porker.
       In the back room Aidan and I sat down at my old jade green Formica-topped table. I bided my time and waited for Aidan to speak first. In witch circles, simply asking “What may I help you with?” can open up a dangerous can of worms.
       “I have to leave town for a little while,” he said.
       “Really?” Even though I knew perfectly well that he had lived elsewhere in the past, including when he’d worked with the father who had abandoned me, in my mind Aidan was so associated with San Francisco that it was hard to imagine him in any other locale. “How long do you think you’ll be gone?”
       “And here I was rather hoping you would beg me to stay,” he said in a quiet voice, his gaze holding mine.
       “Far be it from me to dictate to the likes of Aidan Rhodes.”
       He smiled. “In any case, I need a favor.”
       Uh-oh.
       “First,” he said, “I’ll need you to keep tabs on Selena.”
       Selena was a talented but troubled teenage witch who had come into my life recently. She reminded me of myself at her age: socially awkward and dangerously magical.
       I clenched my teeth. It wasn’t Aidan’s place to tell me to watch over Selena; she needed all of us with whom she had grown close. But it was true that Aidan and I had both been helping her to train her powers. In her case, as in mine, the biggest challenge was learning to keep control over her emotions and her magic in general. But even as he was asking me to partner with him, Aidan still fancied himself the head of the local magical community—me included. It was very annoying.
       “Of course,” I said. “I have been.”
       “Of course,” Aidan repeated. “And Oscar can come in handy with that as well.”
       I concentrated on reining in my irritation. It wouldn’t do to send something flying, which sometimes happened when I lost my temper. Proving that Selena and I weren’t that far apart in some areas of our development.
       “You’re not Oscar’s master anymore,” I pointed out.
       He nodded slowly. “So true. Alas, I will leave that in your more than capable hands, then. Also while I’m gone I need you to fill in for me and adjudicate a few issues. Nothing too strenuous.”
       “Beg pardon?”
       He handed me a heavy, well-worn leather satchel tied with a black ribbon. “You’re always so curious about what I do for the local witchcraft community. Now’s your chance to find out.”
       “I never said I wanted to find out. I’m really perfectly happy being in the dark.”
       Aidan smiled. “Why do I find that hard to believe? In any event, find out you shall.”
       I sighed. As curious as I was about Aidan’s world, I hesitated to be drawn into it. However, I was in his debt and the bill had come due. “Fine. I’m going to need more information, though. What all is involved in ‘adjudicating issues’?”
       He shrugged. “Little of this, little of that. Mostly it means keeping an eye on things, making sure nothing gets out of hand. Handling disputes, assisting with certifications . . . Valuable job skills that really beef up the résumé, you’ll see.”
       “Uh-huh,” I said, skeptical. At the moment I didn’t need a more impressive résumé. I needed a lawyer. “What kind of certifications?”
       “Fortune-tellers and necromancers must be licensed in the city and county of San Francisco. Surely your good friend Inspector Romero has mentioned this at some point.”
       “He has, but since I’m neither a fortune-teller nor a necromancer I didn’t pay much attention. So that’s what you do? Help people fill out forms down at City Hall? Surely—”
       “It’s all terribly glamorous, isn’t it? Resolving petty squabbles, unraveling paperwork snafus . . . The excitement never ends,” he said with another smile. “But it’s necessary work, and you’re more than qualified to handle it while I’m gone. You’ll find everything you need in there.”
       I opened the satchel and took a peek. Inside were what appeared to be hundreds of signed notes written on ancient parchment, a business card with the mayor’s cell phone number written on the back in pencil, and a jangly key ring. I pulled out the keys: One was an old-fashioned skeleton key, but the others were modern and, I assumed, unlocked his office at the recently rebuilt wax museum. “Aidan, what are . . . ?”
       I looked up, but Aidan was gone, his departure marked by a slight sway of the curtains. Letting out a loud sigh of exasperation, I grumbled, “I swear, that man moves like a vampire.”
       “Vampire?” Bronwyn poked her head through the curtains, Oscar still in her arms. “Are we worried about vampires now?”
       “No, no, of course not,” I assured her as I closed the satchel and stashed it under the workroom table. “Sorry—just talking to myself.”
       “Oh, thank the goddess!” said Bronwyn, and set Oscar down. Whenever Aidan was around, Oscar became excited to the point of agitation, and his little hooves clicked on the wooden planks of the floor as he hopped around. “Never a dull moment at Aunt Cora’s Closet.”

Excerpt used with permission.





A Toxic Trousseau
A Witchcraft Mystery 8
NAL Obsidian, July 5, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell - Excerpt
The New York Times bestselling author of Spellcasting in Silk continues as witch and vintage boutique owner Lily Ivory cracks open a Pandora’s box when she investigates some alarming apparel…

Even the most skilled sorceress can’t ward off a lawsuit, and Lily is not at her enchanting best with her hands full as the temporary leader of San Francisco’s magical community. So after her potbellied pig Oscar head-butts rival clothier Autumn Jennings, Lily tries to make peace without a costly personal injury case.

But any hope of a quiet resolution is shattered when Autumn turns up dead. As one of the prime suspects, Lily searches for a way to clear her name and discovers a cursed trousseau among Autumn’s recently acquired inventory. Lily must deal with a mysterious dogwalker and spend the night in a haunted house as she delves into the trunk’s treacherous past. She’s got to figure out who wanted to harm Autumn fast, before the curse claims another victim…





About Juliet

A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell - Excerpt
Joseph Schell Photograph
Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Key. She the also writes the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover's Mystery series. A former anthropologist, social worker, and professional artist, Juliet is a California native who has spent time in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France.



Website  ~  Twitter @JulietBlackwell  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest

Excerpt from Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay


The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky which will be published by NAL on May 10th.


Children of Earth and Sky
NAL, May 10, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

Excerpt from Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…





Here is a passage from early in the book, introducing one of the central characters and the setting in which she lives. For now.

Excerpted from Children of Earth and Sky, © Guy Gavriel Kay, 2016.

She hadn't intended to bring the dog when she went out on a moonless night to begin the next stage of her life.
        Problem was, Tico jumped in the boat while she was pushing it off the strand and refused to leave when she hissed a command at him. She knew that if she pushed him into the shallow water he'd start barking in protest, and she couldn't allow that.
        So her dog was with her as she began rowing out into the black bay. It could have been comical, except it wasn't because she was here to kill people, and for all her hard, cold reputation in Senjan, she had never done that.
        It was time, Danica thought.
        The Senjani named themselves heroes, warriors of the sun god defending a dangerous border. If she was going to make herself accepted as a raider among them, not just a someday mother of fighters (and daughter of one, and granddaughter), she needed to begin. And she had her own vengeance to pursue. Not against Seressa, but this could be a start.
        No one knew she was out tonight in her family's small boat. She'd been careful. She was unmarried, lived alone now in their house (everyone in her family was dead, since last summer). She could come and go silently at night, and all the young people in Senjan knew how to get through the town walls if they needed to, on the landward side, or down to the stony beach and the boats.
        The raid leaders might punish her after tonight, the emperor's small garrison almost certainly would want to, but she was prepared for that. She just needed to succeed. Recklessness and pride, courage and faith in Jad, and prowess, those were how the Senjani understood themselves. They could punish her and still honour her—if she did what she was out here to do. If she was right about tonight.
        Nor did she find it distressing that the men she intended to kill were fellow worshippers of Jad, not god-denying Osmanlis—like the ones who had destroyed her own village years ago.
        Danica had no trouble summoning hatred for arrogant Seressa across the narrow sea. For one thing, that republic traded greedily with the infidels, betraying the sun god in pursuit of gold.
        For another, Seressa had been blockading Senjan, keeping all the boats pinned in the harbour or on the strand, and the town was hungry now. The Seressinis controlled Hrak Island, which was so near you could swim to it, and they'd forbidden the islanders, on pain of hanging, from dealing with Senjan. (There was some smuggling, but not enough, not nearly so.) They were bent on starving the Senjani, or destroying them if they came out. There was no mystery to it.
        A good-sized overland party of twenty raiders had gone east through the pass into Asharite lands a week ago, but end of winter was not a time to find much in the way of food there, and there were terrible risks.
        It was too early to know if the Osmanlis were advancing towards the imperial fortresses again this year, but they probably would be. Here in the west, the heroes of Senjan could try to capture animals or take villagers for ransom. They could fight the savage hadjuks in fair numbers if they met them, but not if those numbers were greatly increased, and not if the hadjuks had cavalry with them from the east.
        Everything carried risks for ordinary people these days. The great powers in their courts didn't appear to spend much time thinking about the heroes of Senjan—or any of the men and women on the borderlands.
        The triple border, they called it: Osmanli Empire, Holy Jaddite Empire, Republic of Seressa. Ambitions collided here. These lands were where good people suffered and died for their families and faith.
        The loyal heroes of Senjan were useful to their emperor in the north. When there was war with Asharias they'd receive letters of praise on expensive paper from Obravic, and every so often half a dozen more soldiers to be garrisoned in the tall round tower inland from their walls, augmenting the handful usually here. But when the demands of trade, or finance, or conflicts among the Jaddite nations, or the need to end such conflicts, or whatever other factors in the lofty world of courts caused treaties to be made—well, then the raiders of Senjan, the heroes, became expendable. A problem, a threat to harmony if the Osmanli court or aggrieved Seressini ambassadors registered complaints.
        These bloodthirsty savages have violated our sworn peace with the Osmanlis, the terms of a treaty. They have seized shipped goods, raided villages, sold people into slavery . . . So Seressa had notoriously written.
        An emperor, reading that, needed to be more honourable, more aware, Danica thought, rowing quietly under stars. Didn't he understand what they needed from him? Villages or farms on a violent border divided by faith didn't become peaceful because of pen strokes in courts far away.
        If you lived on stony land or by a stony strand you still needed to feed yourself and your children. Heroes and warriors shouldn't be named savages so easily.
        If the emperor didn't pay them to defend his land (their land!), or send soldiers to do it, or allow them to find goods and food for themselves, asking nothing of him, what did he want them to do? Die?
        If Senjani seafarers boarded trading galleys and roundships, it was only for goods belonging to heretics. Jaddite merchants with goods in the holds were protected. Or, well, they were supposed to be. They usually were. No one was going to deny that extremes of need and anger might cause some raiders to be a little careless in sorting which merchant various properties belonged to on a taken ship.
        Why do they ignore us in Obravic? she asked suddenly, in her mind.
        You want honourable behaviour from courts? A foolish wish, her grandfather said.
        I know, she replied, in thought, which was how she spoke with him. He'd been dead almost a year. The plague of last summer.
        It had taken her mother, too, which is why Danica was alone now. There were about seven or eight hundred people in Senjan most of the time (more took refuge if there was trouble inland). Almost two hundred had died here in two successive summers.
        There were no assurances in life, even if you prayed, honoured Jad, lived as decently as you could. Even if you had already suffered what someone might fairly have said was enough. But how did you measure what was enough? Who decided?
        Her mother didn't talk to her in her mind. She was gone. So were her father and older brother, ten years ago in a burning village, other side of the pass. They didn't talk to her.
        Her grandfather was in her head at all times. They spoke to one another, clearly, silently. Had done so from the moment, just about, that he'd died.
        What just happened? he'd said. Exactly that, abruptly, in her mind, as Danica walked away from the pyre where he and her mother had burned with half a dozen other plague victims.
        She had screamed. Wheeled around in a mad, terrified circle, she remembered. Those beside her had thought it was grief.
        How are you here? she'd cried out, silently. Her eyes had been wide open, staring, seeing nothing.
        Danica! I don't know!
        You died!
        I know I did.
        It was impossible, appalling. And became unimaginably comforting. She'd kept it secret, from that day to this night. There were those, and not just clerics, who would burn her if this became known.
        It defined her life now, as much as the deaths of her father and brother had—and the memory of their small, sweet little one, Neven, the younger brother taken by the hadjuks in that night raid years ago. The raid that had brought three of them fleeing to Senjan on the coast: her grandfather, her mother, herself at ten years old.
        So she talked in her thoughts with a man who was dead. She was as good with a bow as anyone in Senjan, better than anyone she knew with knives. Her grandfather had taught her both while he was alive, from when she was only a girl. There were no boys any more in the family to teach. They had both learned to handle boats here. It was what you did in Senjan. She had learned to kill with a thrown knife and a held one, to loose arrows from a boat, judging the movements of the sea. She was extremely good at that. It was why she had a chance to do what she was out here to do tonight.
        She wasn't, Danica knew, an especially conventional young woman.
        She swung her quiver around and checked the arrows: habit, routine. She'd brought a lot of them, odds were very much against a strike with each one, out here on the water. Her bow was dry. She'd been careful. A wet bowstring was next to useless. She wasn't sure how far she'd have to aim tonight—if this even happened. If the Seressinis were indeed coming. It wasn't as if they'd made her a promise.
        It was a mild night, one of the first of a cold spring. Little wind. She couldn't have done this in a rough sea. She dropped her cloak from her shoulders. She looked up at the stars. When she was young, back in their village, sleeping outdoors behind the house on hot summer nights, she used to fall asleep trying to count them. Numbers went on and on, apparently. So did stars. She could almost understand how Asharites might worship them. Except it meant denying Jad, and how could anyone do that?
        Tico was motionless at the prow, facing out to sea as if he were a figurehead. She wasn't able to put into words how much she loved her dog. There was no one to say it to, anyhow.
        Wind now, a little: her grandfather, in her mind.
        I know, she replied quickly, although in truth she'd only become aware of it in the moment he told her. He was acute that way, sharper than she was when it came to certain things. He used her senses now—sight, smell, touch, sound, even taste. She didn't understand how. Neither did he.
        She heard him laugh softly, in her head, at the too-swift reply. He'd been a fighter, a hard, harsh man to the world. Not with his daughter and granddaughter, though. His name had also been Neven, her little brother named for him. She called him “zadek” in her mind, their family's own name for “grandfather,” going back a long way, her mother had told her.
        She knew he was worried tonight, didn't approve of what she was doing. He'd been blunt about it. She had given him her reasons. They hadn't satisfied. She cared about that, but she also didn't. He was with her, but he didn't control her life. He couldn't do anything to stop her from doing what she chose. She also had the ability to close him off in her mind, shut down their exchanges and his ability to sense anything. She could do that any time she wanted. He hated it when she did.
        She didn't like it either, in truth, though there were times (when she was with men, for example) when it was useful and extremely necessary. She was alone without him, though. There was Tico. But still.
        I did know it was changing, she protested.
        The freshening wind was north and east, could become a bura, in fact, which would make the sea dangerous, and also make it almost impossible for a bow. These were her waters, however, her home now, since her first home had burned.
        You weren't supposed to be angry with the god, it was presumption, heresy. Jad's face on the domes and walls of sanctuaries showed his love for his children, the clerics said. Holy books taught his infinite compassion and courage, battling darkness every night for them. But there had been no compassion from the god, or the hadjuks, in her village that night. She dreamed of fires.
        And the proud and glorious Republic of Seressa, self-proclaimed Queen of the Sea, traded with those Osmanlis, by water routes and overland. And because of that trade, that greed, Seressa was starving the heroes of Senjan now, because the infidels were complaining.
        The Seressinis hanged raiders when they captured them, or just killed them on board ships and threw the bodies into the sea without Jad's rites. They worshipped golden coins in Seressa more than the golden god, that was what people said.
        The wind eased again. Not about to be a bura, she thought. She stopped rowing. She was far enough out for now. Her grandfather was silent, leaving her to concentrate on watching in the dark.
        The only thing he'd ever offered as an explanation for this impossible link they shared was that there were traditions in their family—her mother's family, his—of wisewomen and second sight.
        Anything like this? she'd asked.
        No, he'd replied. Nothing I ever heard.
        She'd never experienced anything that suggested a wisewoman's sight in herself, any access to the half-world, anything at all besides a defining anger, skill with a bow and knives, and the best eyesight in Senjan.
        That last was the other thing that made tonight possible. It was black on the water, only stars above, neither moon in the sky—which was why she was here now. She'd been fairly certain that if the Seressinis did do this they would come on a moonless night. They were vicious and arrogant, but never fools.
        Two war galleys, carrying three hundred and fifty oarsmen and mercenary fighters, with new bronze cannons from Seressa's Arsenale, had been blocking the bay, both ends of Hrak Island, since winter's end, but they hadn't been able to do anything but that.
        The galleys were too big to come closer in. These were shallow, rocky, reef-protected seas, and Senjan's walls and their own cannons could handle any shore party sent on foot from a landing farther south. Besides which, putting mercenaries ashore on lands formally ruled by the emperor could be seen as a declaration of war. Seressa and Obravic danced a dance, always, but there were too many other dangers in the world to start a war carelessly.
        The republic had tried to blockade Senjan before, but never with two war galleys. This was a huge investment of money and men and time, and neither ship's captain could be happy sitting in open water with chilled, bored, restless fighters, achieving nothing for his own career.
        The blockade was working, however. It was doing real harm, though it was hard for those on the galleys to know that yet.
        In the past, the Senjani had always found ways of getting offshore, but this was different, with two deadly ships controlling the lanes to north and south of the island that led to sea.
        It seemed the Council of Twelve had decided the raiders had finally become too much of a nuisance to be endured. There had been mockery: songs and poetry. Seressa was not accustomed to being a source of amusement. They claimed this sea, they named it after themselves. And, more importantly, they guaranteed the safety of all ships coming up this way to dock by their canals for their merchants and markets. The heroes of Senjan, raiding to feed themselves, and for the greater glory of Jad, were a problem.
        Danica offered a thought to her grandfather.
        Yes, a thorn in the lion's paw, he agreed.
        The Seressinis called themselves lions. A lion was on their flag and their red document seals. There were apparently lions on columns in the square before their palace, on either side of the slave market.
        Danica preferred to call them wild dogs, devious and dangerous. She thought she could kill some of them tonight, if they sent a skiff into the bay, intending to set fire to the Senjani boats drawn up on the strand below the walls.

He wasn't going to say he loved her or anything like that. That wasn't the way the world went on Hrak Island. But Danica Gradek did drift into his dreams too often for peace of mind, and had done so for a while now. On the island and in Senjan there were women who interpreted dreams for a fee. Mirko didn't need them for these.
        She was unsettling, Danica. Different from any of the girls on Hrak, or in the town when he made his way across to trade fish or wine.
        You had to trade very cautiously these days. Seressa had forbidden anyone to deal with the pirates this spring. There were war galleys here. You'd be flogged or branded if caught, could even be hanged, depending on who did the catching and how much your family could afford in bribes. Seressa almost certainly had spies in Senjan, too, so you needed to be careful that way, as well. Seressa had spies everywhere, was the general view.
        Danica was younger than him but always acted as if she were older. She could laugh, but not always when you'd said something you thought was amusing. She was too cold, the other men said, you'd freeze your balls making love to her. They talked about her, though.
        She handled a bow better than any of them. Better than anyone Mirko knew, anyhow. It was unnatural in a woman, wrong, ought to have been displeasing, but for Mirko it wasn't. He didn't know why. Her father, it was said, had been a famous fighter in his day. A man of reputation. He'd died in a hadjuk village raid, somewhere on the other side of the mountains.
        Danica was tall. Her mother had been, too. She had yellow hair and extremely light blue eyes. There was northern blood in the family. Her grandfather had had eyes like that. He'd been a scary figure when he came to Senjan, scarred and fierce, thick moustaches, a border hero of the old style, men said. He was the one who'd taught his granddaughter how to handle a bow and knives.
        She'd kissed him once, Danica. Just a few days ago, in fact. He'd been ashore south of the town walls with two casks of wine before dawn, thin blue moon setting. She and three others he knew had been waiting on the strand to buy from him. They'd used torches to signal from the beach.
        It happened he had learned something not long before and—on an impulse—he'd asked her to walk a little away from the others. There had been jokes made, of course. Mirko didn't mind, she hadn't looked as if she did. It was hard to read her moods and he wouldn't claim to be good at understanding women, anyhow.
        He told her that three days earlier he'd been part of a group supplying the war galley in the northern channel. He'd overheard talk about sending a boat to fire the Senjani ones drawn up on the strand. Bored men on ships, especially mercenaries, could grow careless. He said if it were him doing it, he'd do it on a no-moons night. Of course, she said.
        He thought if she was the one he told she could reap the benefit of reporting the tidings to the raid captains inside the walls and she'd be happy with him for that.
        Danica Gradek kissed really well, it turned out. Fiercely, even hungrily. She wasn't quite as tall as he was. He wasn't sure, remembering the moment, if it had been passion, or triumph, or the anger everyone said was in her, but he'd wanted more. Of the kiss, of her.
        “Good lad,” she said, stepping back.
        Lad? That he didn't like. “You'll warn the captains?”
        “Of course,” she said.
        It never occurred to him she might be lying.

She was protecting the boy, she'd explained to her zadek. Mirko wasn't a boy, but she thought of him that way. She thought of most of the men her age that way. A few were different—she could admire skill and bravery—but those often turned out to be the ones who most fiercely rejected the idea of a woman as a raider. They hated that she was better with her bow than them, but she wasn't, ever, going to hide what she could do. She'd made that decision a long time ago.
         The heroes of Senjan, devoted equally to Jad and independence, also had a reputation for violence. That last, in the eyes of the world, included their women. There were horrified, wide-eyed stories told of Senjani women streaming down from hills or woods to a triumphant battlefield at day's end—wild, like wolves—to lick and drink the blood from the wounds of slain foes, or even those not yet dead! Tearing or hacking limbs off and letting blood drip down gaping throats. Senjani woman believed, the tale went, that if they drank blood their unborn sons would be stronger warriors.
         Foolish beyond words. But useful. It was a good thing to have people afraid of you if you lived in a dangerous part of the world.
         But Senjan didn't think it good for a woman, not long out of girlhood, to believe—let alone seek to prove—she could equal a man, a real fighter, with her chosen weapons. That, they didn't like much, the heroes.
         At least she wasn't strong with a sword. There was someone who had spied on her throwing daggers at targets outside the walls and, well, according to him she did that extremely well. She ran fast, could handle a boat, knew how to move silently, and . . .
         Some reckless, very brave man, the general view became, needed to marry the ice-cold, pale-eyed Gradek girl and get a baby into her. End this folly of a woman raiding. She might be the daughter of Vuk Gradek, who'd had renown in his day, inland, but she was a daughter of a hero, not a son.
         One of his sons had died with him; the other, a child, had been taken by the hadjuks in the raid on Antunic, their village inland. He was likely a eunuch by now in Asharias or some provincial city, or being trained for the djannis—their elite, Jaddite-born infantry. He might even one day come back attacking them.
         It happened. One of the old, hard sorrows of the border.
         The girl did want to join the raids, it was no secret. She spoke of vengeance for her family and village. Had been talking that way for years.
         She'd openly asked the captains. Wanted to go through the pass into Osmanli lands on a raid for sheep and goats, or men and women to ransom or sell. Or she'd ask to go in the boats chasing merchant ships in the Seressini Sea—which they might actually be able to start doing again if this accursed blockade would only lift.
         Danica knew the talk about her. Of course she did. She'd even let Kukar Miho watch her practising, thinking himself cleverly unseen behind (rustling) bushes, as she threw knives at olives on a tree near the watchtower.
         This past winter the clerics had begun speaking to her about marrying, offering to negotiate with families on her behalf since she had no parent or brother to do so. Some of her mother's friends had made the same offer.
         She was still mourning, she'd said, eyes lowered, as if shy. It hadn't been a year yet, she'd said.
         Her mourning year would end in summer. They'd chant a service for her mother and grandfather in the sanctuary, along with so many others, then she'd need to think of another excuse. Or pick a man.
         She was perfectly happy to sleep with one when a certain mood overtook her. She'd discovered some time ago that cups of wine and lovemaking could ease her nights on occasion. She closed off her grandfather in her mind on those nights, relieved she was able to do so. They never discussed it.
         But being with a man by the strand or in a barn outside the walls (only one time in her own house—it had felt wrong in the morning and she'd never done it again) was as much as she wanted right now. If she married, her life changed. Ended, she was half inclined to say, though she knew that was excessive. A life ended when you died.
         In any case, she'd told her grandfather the truth: she was protecting Mirko of Hrak by not reporting his information to the captains or the military. If the Senjani set a full ambush on the beach for a night attack, the Seressinis would realize someone had given their plan away. They were clever enough to do that, Jad knew, and vicious enough to torture a story out of the islanders. They might or might not arrive at Mirko, but why risk it? One guard out in a boat—that could be routine.
         If she’d revealed Mirko’s story she'd have been asked who told her, and it would have been impossible (and wrong) to not tell the captains. She wanted to join the raiders, not anger them. And the Seressini spy inside the walls (of course there was a spy, there was always a spy) would almost certainly learn whatever she said, see the preparations. They'd likely cancel the attack, if it was happening. If Mirko was right.
         No, doing this alone was the prudent approach, she'd told her grandfather, choosing the word a little mischievously. Unsurprisingly, he had sworn at her. He had been legendary for his tongue in his day. She was developing a little of that reputation, but it was different for a woman.
         Everything in the world was. Danica wondered sometimes why the god had made it so.
         She really did have good eyesight. She saw a flame appear and vanish to her right, north, on the headland that framed that side of their bay. She caught her breath.
         Jad sear his soul! What pustulent, slack-bowelled fucking traitor is that? her grandfather snarled.
         She saw it again, quickly there and gone, moving right to left. A light on the headland could only be there to guide a boat. And to do that in these deadly waters you needed to know the bay and its rocks and shallows.
         Tico had seen it too. He growled in his throat. She silenced him. It was a long bowshot to that headland at night. Too long from a boat. Danica began rowing again, heading that way, north, against the light breeze, but still looking west as she went.
         Quietly, girl!
         I am.
         Nothing else to be seen yet. The Seressinis would have a long way to go past the island from where the galley blocked the channel. But that light on the headland was signalling a path through rocks and reefs. Swinging right now, then left, held briefly in the middle, then hidden, most likely by a cloak. It meant someone was coming, and that he could see them.
         She gauged the distance, shipped her oars, took her bow, nocked an arrow.
         Too far, Danica.
         It isn't, zadek. And if he's up there they are on their way.
         He was silent in her thoughts. Then said, He's holding the lantern in his right hand, guiding them left and right. You can tell where his body is by how—
         I know, zadek. Shh. Please.
         She waited on the wind, the small boat moving as the breeze moved the sea.
         She was still watching two ways: that headland light, and where the channel opened, by the dark bulk of the island.
         She heard them before she saw anything.
         They were rowing, not silently. They were not expecting anyone out here and they were coming towards her.
         Splash of oars in water, Tico stiffening again. Danica hushed him, stared into the night, and then it was there, clearing the dark bulk of the island, one small light. Seressinis on the water, come to burn boats on the strand. She was awake, this was not a dream of fire coming.
         There was anger in her, no fear. She was the hunter tonight. They didn't know that. They thought that they were.
         I don't need to kill him, she murmured in her mind.
         He needs to die.
         Later. If we take him alive we can ask questions.
         In truth, it might have been hard for her, killing that one on the headland: whoever he was, he was going to be someone she knew in town. She had decided it was time to learn how to kill, but she hadn't thought it might be a face she knew right at the start.
         I ought to have realized they'd need someone to guide them in.
         Might have been with them in the boat, her grandfather said. Might still be someone with them. They tend to be cautious.
         She couldn't resist. Like me?
         He swore. She smiled. And suddenly felt calm. She was in the midst of events now, not anticipating they might happen. Time had run, after almost ten years it had carried her to this moment, this boat on black water with her bow.
         She could see the shape of the approaching craft, dark on darkness. They had one light, would mean to douse it when they came nearer to shore. She heard a voice, trying to be quiet, but carrying, if anyone was out in the bay to hear.
         “Over other way, he's saying. Rocks just there.”
         Speaking Seressini. She was glad of that.
         Jad guide your arm and eye, her grandfather said. His voice in her mind was very cold.
         Danica stood up, balanced herself. She had trained for this, so many times. The wind was easy, and the sea. She fitted an arrow to the string, drew the bowstring back. She could see them in the boat now. It looked like six men. Maybe seven.
         She loosed her first arrow. Was nocking the second as that one flew.





About Guy

Excerpt from Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
Photo by Samantha Kidd
Guy Gavriel Kay is the international bestselling author of twelve previous novels and a book of poetry. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in literature of the fantastic and won the World Fantasy Award for Ysabel in 2008. In 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages.






For more information, please visit www.brightweavings.com and follow Guy Gavriel Kay on Twitter @GuyGavrielKay



Retro Reviews: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman



Retro Reviews: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman


The Left Hand of God
Author:  Paul Hoffman
Series:  The Left Hand of God Trilogy 1
First Edition:  Hardcover, Dutton (June 15, 2010)
Also Available:  Trade Paperback (NAL, July 5, 2011)
     and eBook (May 26, 2010)
Availability:  Online and in stores
ISBN:  9780451231888

Brief History

Retro Reviews: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
Paul Hoffman was born in 1953 in England. He spent his childhood traveling the world as his father was a pioneer in the sport of parachuting. He went to school at New College, Oxford. He had several odd jobs until he became a senior film censor at the British Board of Film Classification. It was there that he wrote his first book The Wisdom of Crocodiles in 2000. The Left Hand of God is his third novel. Five of his books have been published to date.

The Left Hand of God is the first book in The Left Hand of God trilogy, followed by The Last Four Things and The Beating of His Wings.


Description

Raised from early childhood in the Redeemer Sanctuary, the stronghold of a secretive sect of warrior monks, Thomas Cale has known only deprivation, punishment, and grueling training. When he escapes to the outside world, Cale learns that his embittered heart is still capable of loving- and breaking.

But the Redeemers won’t accept the defection of their prized pupil without a fight…


Brannigan's Review

I've been wanting to read this book for a while now, but as we all do from time to time I passed on it for other books. Then, I got the second book in the series to read and review and found the perfect reason to pick up this, the first book in the series.

Right away Paul Hoffman's writing drew me into his story. His characters and world were all very interesting. He has a way of writing that brings in an atmosphere almost immediately. While reading about the Sanctuary filled with abusive clergy and forgotten and abandoned children, I felt a dampness, and in my peripheral vision I saw the fog. Outside of my home, I was surrounded by miles of bogs. This is what I want when I read. I want to feel the environment of the book closing in around me.

Thomas Cale and his two friends, for lack of a better word, have a wonderful dynamic. None of them truly like each other or even trust each other, because they were taught never to trust another person, but somehow they are able to work together and escape only to find a stranger world outside of the Sanctuary. I immediately latched onto Thomas and felt sorry for his past. He's strong and I love a strong hero, but he's leery of helping and trusting others, so he has his faults.

Hoffman's setting is odd. It's obviously set in a European-type middle ages. He borrows from familiar cultures like England, Rome and even Japan. The Materazzi reminded me of Samurai at times with their sense of honor in battle. Then, at the oddest moments he uses cities and countries and even religions from our world. Memphis, Kiev, Jerusalem, Norwegian, Jesus of Nazareth, Rabbis. So I'm still confused if it's our actual world but in a future where something apocalyptic sent us back into a dark age, or if his world is an alternate Earth that never left the middle ages and kept going for thousands of years. I wouldn't mind either, but I sure would like to know which one it is, so I wasn't being thrown out of the story each time he brought in another city or person from my world.

The last thing I want to mention is the pacing of the story. It's not slow as in when will this end, but it's definitely not fast. I enjoyed the pacing and took my time with the book as I enjoyed Hoffman's world and characters. However, I do feel it's worth mentioning, since I know a lot of readers that only enjoy reading books that grab you by the neck and drag you kicking and grinning.

The Left Hand of God is an intriguing first book in a trilogy. Nothing is as it appears. The pacing can be slow at times and it has an odd setting, but the protagonist Thomas Cale is too interesting to give up on. I'll be reading book 2 next and seeing if some of my questions can be answered, but at the very least I'm sure to enjoy spending more time with Cale. There is violence, language and minor sexual situations. I would recommend it to adults only. As of right now I would recommend you borrow the book from a friend or library. This recommendation might change once I've read more of the series.

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015


Please welcome Bailey Cates to The Qwillery. Bailey is the author of the Magical Bakery Mystery series. Magic and Macaroons will be published on July 7th by Obsidian (NAL).



Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015




Magic and Macaroons is the fifth Magical Bakery Mystery featuring kitchen witch and one-third owner of the Honeybee Bakery, Katie Lightfoot. Katie has been in Savannah, Georgia for a year and a half now, and is still learning about the Craft from the members of the spellbook club. Mimsey Carmichael specializes in flower and color magic and dabbles in divination, while Bianca Devereaux focuses on traditional Wiccan spell work and moon magic. Jaida French is a tarot expert, and Cookie Rios -- well, she's a generalist since she turned away from the voodoo she grew up with in Haiti.

But Katie's specialty is hedgewitchery, or green magic, like her aunt Lucy whom she works with in the bakery. Together, they use their special knowledge of herbs and spices to gently bewitch the delicious goodies they bake up at the Honeybee with spells for love, prosperity, health, peace and more. She's also learned that she's a lightwitch, and while that might account for why she stumbles into so many murder investigations involving magic, she still doesn't know exactly what else being a lightwitch entails. Her mentor in that regard, Detective Franklin Taite, is now dead, and she's waiting for the replacement he promised would show up in her life.

As Magic and Macaroons begins, it's an unseasonably hot August in Georgia, and Katies is battling the heat with cool treats for the Honeybee patrons. But then a meeting of the spellbook club is interrupted by a stranger collapsing on the floor of the bakery, mumbling something about a missing talisman and voodoo queens. Soon an impossibly dead body is added to the mix.

Katie is compelled to investigate, and the first thing she does is enlist a reluctant Cookie Rios' help to find out more about Savannah's infamous voodoo queens and the possible uses for the missing talisman. She meets several members of this largely underground community, all quite different, and all possible suspects at first.

But they aren't the only suspects, and with the help of the members of the spellbook club, her boyfriend, Declan McCarthy, Declan's improbable Uncle Connell, and Steve Dawes, Katie tracks the magical killer.

I'm fascinated by the different aspects of magic, and how they relate to everything from quantum physics to psychic readings. However, friends became a bit alarmed when I started researching voodoo. It has a reputation for dark magic, for voodoo dolls and curses. I heard quite a few interesting stories during the year I conducted research.

However,there are many, many flavors of voodoo/voudou/vodou/hoodoo. Almost all are based on West African religions that date back centuries, but many of those have been added to, subtracted from, or altered by local culture. In the end, my goal was to address the magical aspects of voodoo with the respect I try to show all magical or pagan practices in the series. I did a lot of reading (a LOT), and spoke numerous times with a voodoo queen a friend referred me to. She was enormously helpful.

One thing I learned from my exploration of voodoo? Well, here's how Cookie Rios puts it in the book when she's trying to explain the ideas of dark and light magic to Katie: "[Voodoo] is black. It is white. It is purple and green and red. You and the others always talk about gray magic, as if the only colors of magic can be found on some continuum between white and black. But magic is bigger, wider, deeper than that."

This more expansive vision of magic rings true, however you happen to define it in your own life. Besides the spell work side of things, there's always a lot of food in the Magical Bakery Mysteries! For Magic and Macaroons, I include a recipe for coconut macaroons (what else?).

My (Katie's) version is also a thumbprint cookie. You can fill the center indentations with any kind of jam, but I also provide recipes for making your own pineapple jam and pomegranate jelly. The other recipe is for Pao de Quiejo, or Brazilian cheese bread. I am completely addicted to these cheese puffs made with tapioca flour, and had to share how super easy they are to make. As an added, if unintentional, bonus, all these recipes are gluten free.

Next up: Enchanted Garden Mystery #1! This is a new series starting in January of 2016, which I write as Bailey Cattrell. The first one is called Daisies for Innocence (the titles reflect the language of flowers) and features perfumer and gardener (miniature fairy gardens!) named Elliana Allbright. And, of course, I'm also working on Magical Bakery Mystery #6, Spells and Scones!

For information about all my books, please visit cricketmcrae.com





Magic and Macaroons
A Magical Bakery Mystery 5
Obsidian (NAL), July 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015
From the New York Times bestselling author of Some Enchanted éclair comes a tale of delicious desserts and supernatural sleuthing…
 
For magical baker Katie Lightfoot, the only way to beat the Savannah summer heat is to whip up some cool treats for the Honeybee Bakery’s patrons. But when a meeting of the spellbook club is interrupted by a stranger collapsing on the floor of her shop, mumbling something about a voodoo talisman, Katie drops everything to begin investigating.
Her search for answers quickly leads her into a dangerous blend of Savannah’s infamous voodoo queens, a powerful missing charm—and a deadly witch who seems to be targeting the city’s magical community. And with the case getting hotter by the second, Katie will have to work fast to track down the talisman and the killer before the timer runs out…

RECIPES INCLUDED





About Cricket / Bailey

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015
Author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries. Also writes the Home Crafting Mysteries as Cricket McRae.

A former resident of the Pacific Northwest where her novels are set, Cricket McRae has always dabbled in the kind of practical home crafts that were once necessary to everyday life. The magical chemistry of making soap, the satisfaction of canning garden produce, and the sensuous side of fiber arts like spinning and knitting are just a few of the reasons these activities have fascinated her since childhood. As a girl she was as much a fan of Nancy Drew as of Laura Ingalls Wilder, so it's no surprise that her contemporary cozy series features a soap maker with a nose for investigation.

For two years Cricket managed her own soap making business, including all product design, manufacturing and marketing. She has also worked at a variety of other jobs, ranging from driver's license examiner to program manager at Microsoft. This fulfills her mother's warning that she'd never have a "regular" job if she insisted on studying philosophy and English in college.

Now she lives in Colorado, fitting her interest in all things domestic around writing, hiking, biking and, currently, learning how to hate the game of golf.

Website  ~  Twitter @WriterBailey  ~  Facebook





Upcoming

Daisies for Innocence
     as Bailey Cattrell
An Enchanted Garden Mystery 1
NAL, January 5, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook,

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015
From Bailey Cattrell—who writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Bakery Mysteries as Bailey Cates—comes the first Enchanted Garden Mystery featuring custom perfume maker Elliana Allbright…

The Enchanted Garden behind Elliana Allbright’s perfume shop draws people of all ages with its fragrant flowers and lush greenery. But when the magical serenity is interrupted, it’s up to Ellie to sniff out a killer.

Ellie’s life has blossomed in Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense, a custom-made-perfume store. Her skills with aromas and botanical essences—some from her very own garden—seem almost…supernatural. Her perfumes can evoke emotions,  bring about change, or simply make people happy. Customers are flocking to the store to buy her wares or just to sit in her beautiful garden, sip tea and enjoy homemade cookies.

But she smells trouble when she learns that her part-time assistant Josie is dating her ex. And before she can tell the young woman to beware of his charms, she finds Josie dead in the Enchanted Garden. Now the prime suspect in Josie’s murder, Ellie must search for the real culprit in Josie’s past—because it’ll take a miracle to nip this problem in the bud….




Previously

Brownies and Broomsticks
A Magical Bakery Mystery 1
Obsidian (NAL), May 1, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015
EASY BAKE COVEN

Katie Lightfoot’s tired of loafing around as the assistant manager of an Ohio bakery. So when her aunt Lucy and uncle Ben open a bakery in Savannah’s quaint downtown district and ask Katie to join them, she enthusiastically agrees.

While working at the Honeybee Bakery—named after Lucy’s cat—Katie notices that her aunt is adding mysterious herbs to her recipes. Turns out these herbal enhancements aren’t just tasty—Aunt Lucy is a witch and her recipes are actually spells!

When a curmudgeonly customer is murdered outside the Honeybee Bakery, Uncle Ben becomes the prime suspect. With the help of handsome journalist Steve Dawes, charming firefighter Declan McCarthy, and a few spells, Katie and Aunt Lucy stir up some toil and trouble to clear Ben’s name and find the real killer.



Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti
A Magical Bakery Mystery 2
Obsidian (NAL), December 31, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015
A WITCH WITH A WHISK

As a new witch—not to mention owner of Savannah’s most enchanting bakery—Katie Lightfoot is still getting used to casting spells, brewing potions, and mastering her magical powers. But that doesn’t mean she can’t find time to enjoy a picnic with firefighter Declan McCarthy…until she stumbles upon a corpse.

The dead man’s tattoo reveals he was a member of a secret society—and it turns out he's missing an object that was very important to the group. When Katie learns the killer was after more than the man's life, she and her Aunt Lucy leave the baked goods on the rack to cool and set off in hot pursuit of a killer.



Charms and Chocolate Chips
A Magical Bakery Mystery 3
Obsidian (NAL), November 5, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015
A HALF-BAKED HEX

Between brewing magically spiced treats at Honeybee Bakery and volunteering with a local conservation group, Katie Lightfoot barely has time to see her firefighter boyfriend, Declan McCarthy, much less delve further into her destiny as a witch. But avoiding her fate won’t be as easy as whipping up a new recipe—especially when Katie finds herself once again mixed up in murder.

When a fellow volunteer for the conservation group is found dead, Katie’s mystical senses tell her that there’s more to the death than meets the eye. Her suspicions are confirmed when members of her coven are targeted next. Katie will have to embrace her powers quickly...or she may find herself chewed up and spit out by some serious black magic.



Some Enchanted Éclair
A Magical Bakery Mystery 4
Obsidian (NAL), July 1, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015
FLOUR POWER

When Hollywood invades Savannah’s historic district to film a Revolutionary War movie, magical baker Katie Lightfoot, and her witches’ coven, the Spellbook Club, take a break from casting spells for casting calls. One of the witches snags a part as an extra, while Katie’s firefighter boyfriend, Declan, acts as on-set security. Katie and her aunt Lucy decide to stay out of the action, but after the movie’s “fixer” fires the caterer, the Honeybee Bakery comes to the rescue, working their magic to keep the hungry crew happy.

But when someone fixes the fixer—permanently—and a spooky psychic predicts Katie will find the killer, the charming baker and her fellow conjurers step in to sift through the suspects…before someone else winds up on the cutting room floor….

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015


Please welcome Juliet Blackwell to The Qwillery.  Spellcasting in Silk, the 7th Witchcraft Mystery, will be published on July 7th.



Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015




Botanicas

What’s a botanica, you might ask? If you’re ever in a major city, check one out. They’re usually located in the Latino area of town; ask anyone local, they’re bound to have a favorite.

As the name indicates, these stores specialize in botanicals; but botanicas are so much more than that. The shopkeepers often serve as informal folk pharmacists; they are wise women dispensing herbs and advice, from how to get rid of warts to how to improve one’s love life or soothe one’s nerves or exact psychic revenge upon an enemy.

You’ll see packets of herbs and teas; candles for specific uses such as Homework Help or Lucky Lottery; little resin pyramids with Buddha figures inside; tiny metal “milagros” in the shapes of different body parts – leg, head, heart—which are meant to help heal those areas; bells and incense and books. The inventory usually depends on the origin of the shopkeepers; they might hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, or elsewhere in Latin America. Those from Central America often include a good amount of Santeria, a Caribbean tradition derived from beliefs of West African slaves, indigenous religions, and Catholicism.

What I enjoy most about botanicas is the blending of so many different belief systems. When I write my Witchcraft mysteries, I love to pick and choose different aspects of magical beliefs or folk medicines from all over the world, bringing them together in a coherent system. Throughout history and in every part of the globe, humans have developed special ways of looking at and interpreting and manipulating the world – part science, part faith, part magic.

So if you get a chance to wander the aisles of a botanica, choose a few meaningful items. Even if you’re not a believer in magic, sometimes a stone with “Strength” carved into it, given to you by a friend, can bring solace in hard times. A soothing tea might help you drift off to sleep. Lighting a candle for good luck can help you focus your concentration and ace that test or job interview. My little silver milagro helps me fend off headaches…I think. I hope. I want to believe.

And isn’t that what magic is all about?





Spellcasting in Silk
A Witchcraft Mystery 7
NAL, July 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Vision in Velvet comes more spooky sleuthing with Lily Ivory, vintage boutique owner and gifted witch…

Lily would like nothing better than to relax, enjoy her friends, and take care of business at her store, which is booming thanks to San Francisco’s upcoming Summer of Love Festival.  But as the unofficial witchy consultant to the SFPD, she is pulled into yet another case.

A woman has jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, and her apparent suicide may be connected to a suspicious botanica in the Mission District. When the police investigate the shop, they ask Lily to look into its mysterious owner, whose granddaughter also appears to be missing. As Lily searches for the truth, she finds herself confronted with a confounding mystery and some very powerful magic…





About Juliet

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series, featuring a powerful witch with a vintage clothes store in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. She also writes the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series, about a failed anthropologist who reluctantly takes over her father’s high-end construction company…and finds ghosts behind the walls. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series, in which an ex-art forger attempts to go straight as a faux finisher. She is currently working on a novel about a woman who takes over her uncle’s locksmith shop in Paris, entitled The Paris Key. A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France.

Visit her at www.julietblackwell.net, join her on Facebook (JulietBlackwellAuthor) and on Twitter @JulietBlackwell



Click 'Read more' to see the previous novels in the Witchcraft Mysteries.

Previously


Secondhand Spirits
A Witchcraft Mystery 1
NAL, July 7, 2009
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
Love the vintage—not the ghosts

Lily Ivory feels that she can finally fit in somewhere and conceal her “witchiness” in San Francisco. It’s there that she opens her vintage clothing shop, outfitting customers both spiritually and stylistically.

Just when things seem normal, a client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area. Lily has a good idea that some bad phantoms are behind it. Can she keep her identity secret, or will her witchy ways be forced out of the closet as she attempts to stop the phantom?



A Cast-Off Coven
A Witchcraft Mystery 2
NAL, June 1, 2010
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
Lily Ivory is not your average witch. She runs a vintage clothing store called Aunt Cora’s Closet and has the magical ability to sense vibrations of the past from clothing and jewelry. When students are spooked at the San Francisco School for the Arts, Lily is called in to search for paranormal activity. She finds a dead body—and a closet full of old clothes with some very bad vibes.



Hexes and Hemlines
A Witchcraft Mystery 3
NAL, June 7, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
Lily gets called away from her vintage clothing store to give police a witch’s take on how the leader of a rationalist society could be murdered, surrounded by superstitions he discredited.

Evidence points to dark witchcraft. Lily’s determined to use magic of her own to find the murderer, before everyone’s luck runs out.



In a Witch's Wardrobe
A Witchcraft Mystery 4
NAL, July 3, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
Lily Ivory is living her dream of owning a vintage clothing store—and practicing magic on the side. But when she encounters a sinister sleeping spell, Lily comes face-to-face with a nightmarish evil...

Taking a night off from running her successful San Francisco clothing store, Lily attends a local art deco ball where vintage fashions steal the show. But when a young woman at the event falls under a mysterious sleeping sickness, Lily senses that a curse was placed on the woman’s corsage.

Before Lily can solve the woman’s magical ailment, she’s asked to assist in investigating a string of poisonings in the Bay Area Witchcraft community. She’s gained the trust of the local covens by supporting women’s charities through her clothing store. But soon, Lily suspects that one of her new acquaintances might not be so well intentioned and could be dabbling in dark magic and deadly botany...



Tarnished and Torn
A Witchcraft Mystery 5
NAL, July 2, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
As the owner of a popular vintage clothing store, Lily Ivory can enjoy a day of antique jewelry shopping and still call it work. But as one of San Francisco’s resident witches, searching for hidden treasures can sometimes lead to dangerous discoveries…

When Lily arrives at an antique jewelry fair, her bargain sensors go off left and right—but she also picks up a faint vibration of magic. Could the hard-bargaining merchant Griselda be a fellow practitioner? It certainly seems that way when a sudden fire sends panic through the crowd, and Lily discovers Griselda murdered in a way that nods to an old-fashioned witch hunt…

A crime that hits close to home turns into an unwelcome flash from the past when the police bring in their lead suspect—Lily’s estranged father. Though he may not deserve her help, Lily is determined to clear her father’s name and solve a murder that’s anything but crystal clear.



A Vision in Velvet
A Witchcraft Mystery 6
NAL, July 1, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015
Lily Ivory hopes to score some great vintage fashions when she buys an antique trunk full of old clothes. But she may have gotten more than she bargained for.…

As soon as Lily opens the trunk, she feels strange vibrations emanating from a mysterious velvet cloak. When she tries it on, Lily sees awful visions from the past. And when the antiques dealer who sold her the cape is killed, Lily suspects a supernatural force might be behind his death.

Then Lily’s familiar, Oscar the potbellied pig, disappears. Lily will do anything to get him back—including battling the spirit of a powerful witch reaching out from the past. But even with the aid of her grandmother, unmasking a killer and saving Oscar might be more than one well-intentioned sorceress can handle.

A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell - ExcerptGuest Blog by Amanda Flower and Review & Giveaway of Crime and PoetryExcerpt from Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel KayGuest Blog by Delia James and Review and Giveaway of A Familiar TailReview and Giveaway: Death of A Bad Apple by Penny PikeRetro Reviews: The Left Hand of God by Paul HoffmanReview: Sense of Deception by Victoria Laurie  - and Giveaway - July 20, 2015Guest Blog by Bailey Cates, author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries - July 4, 2015Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015Guest Blog by Victoria Laurie - Murder and Mayhem Amongst Friends - and Giveaway! - May 30, 2014

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